Chemical additives are substances that are not normally consumed as food but which are intentionally added to food for a technological purpose. These substances have no nutritional value or are not used in nutritional purpose. Simply added to foods to preserve them, to enhance the color, flavor, to change the consistency and other characteristics of the food. For each additive, the legislation foresees the foods in which it can be used and the maximum dose used.
The use of additives should be limited and especially should not be used to mislead the consumer regarding the freshness, authenticity, naturalness and nutritional quality of a food.
In food you can find numerous types of chemical additives. The label must be listed by category of membership followed by the chemical name or code consists of an E and a number of 3-4 digits. For example E100 indicates the yellow colorant curcumin.
The categories of chemicals are:
sweeteners, colorings, preservatives, antioxidants, supports, acid, acidity regulators, anti-caking agents, foaming agents, anti-foaming agents, bulking agents, emulsifiers, salts merger, firming agents, flavor enhancers, gelling agents, coating agents, the humectants, modified starches, packaging gases, propellants, raising agents, sequestering agents, stabilizers, thickeners, flour treatment agents.
Sweeteners are substances that are used to sweeten foods. They are used instead of sugars when you want to reduce their content in the food. Intense sweeteners, such as aspartame (E951), are used to replacing sugars in order to reduce or at least contain the calories. Or else sweetening agents are to be used, such as sugar alcohols (eg sorbitol (E420), mannitol (E421), Maltitol (E965) ...) that have a medium sweetness average. They even so have an energy power and their excessive consumption may produce laxative effects. Their encoding occurs with valuing by E950 to E967 and E420 to E421.
ADDITIVES: COLORING AGENTS
They are coded as E100 (yellow curcumin) to E180 (the red pigment in the crust of the cheese). They are used to give a more colorful food. Could mislead the consumer, for example a yellow dye used to simulate the presence of eggs.
A recent british research at the University of Southampton, published in the Lancet (2007) found that certain dyes and additives can worsen the conditions of children between 3 and 9 years presenting behaviors related to hyperactivity. The study was conducted on 300 children who showed signs of significant changes in behavior when they drank flavoured or dyed fruit juice.
Among the substances that could lead to these problems, dyes such as sunset yellow (known as E110), the Carmoisine (E122), tartrazine (E102), ponceau red and preservatives such as sodium benzoate (E211) are included.
They are substances added to foods to prevent the growth of microorganisms that can degrade a food and the development of pathogenic bacteria responsible for food poisoning. Their use is not always necessary and can be avoided in food products where, with appropriate technologies, it is possible to prevent by physical means the growth of microorganisms, for example with heat treatments followed by packaging under aseptic conditions, or by reducing the water present in the foods to prevent the growth of microbes, or preserving food by freezing.
In addition to not always being necessary, preservatives can be responsible for allergies, such as sulfur dioxide or are toxic, such as sodium benzoate (E211).
Those are encoded by E200 to E297.
ADDITIVES: ANTIOXIDANTS AND ACIDIFYING AGENTS
They are encoded by E300 to E385. Antioxidants are substances added to foods in order to slow down the oxidation, for example fats to prevent rancid or powder milk, flour of cereals, juices and derivatives of fruit and vegetables to avoid tarnish in contact of oxygen. The acidifying increase the acidity of foods in order to prolong the preservation and to give a bitter taste. These include, citric acid (E330), tartaric acid (E334).
Among the substances with antioxidant are included: vitamin C (ascorbic acid E300) and also synthetic antioxidants such as BHA (E320) and BHT (E321) which, to the contrary, the Vitamin C does not exist in nature.
They are substances that allow the homogeneous mixture of phases otherwise immiscible in a food, such as water and oil. They are also used to speed up some processes, for example the emulsifiers used as improvers in bread making. Lecithin (E322) and synthetic substances such as mono and diglycerides of fatty acids (E471) belong to this class of natural substances.
ADDITIVES: GELLING AND THICKENERS
They are substances added to food to give consistency through the formation of a gel or to give thickening and viscosity. They are encoded by E400 to E585. This category includes many products of plant origin, such as pectin (E440), derived from the peel of apple and lemon peel, flour, carrod seed flour (E410) and guar seed flour (E412), favourite today to jellies of animal origin.
SATURATED FATTY ACIDS
You can find them in animal fats. The nutritional recommendations advice a control of the proportion of fat in the diet and in particular the possible excess of saturated fatty acids and cholesterol.
Unsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated ones are more present in vegetable oils. For a balanced diet, nutritionists recommend to reduce the percentage of saturated fatty acids, control and does not exceed the intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids, increase the proportion of monounsaturated fatty acids.
FATTY HYDROGENATED ACIDS
Hydrogenation is a chemical process by which the fatty acids, which are normally liquid at room temperature, are transformed into solid fats. The process consists in the mixing of small particles of metal to oils and subsequent exposure to hydrogen gas in the reactor at high temperature and high pressure, then emulsifiers are added and the product is deodorised. The hydrogenated fatty acids are almost totally saturated and are less subject to rancidity. When the hydrogenation is not complete a part of the unsaturated fatty acids remains assuming both the form "cis" (typical of natural unsaturated fatty acids) and the form "trans", present a minimal extent in nature. Unsaturated acids "trans" are not recognized by the body. When the body tries to use them for the protection of cell membranes, it fails. It appears, from studies in different populations, that fatty acids "trans" lead to an increase in "bad" cholesterol LDL compared to the "good" HDL.
They are polymers of plant origin, that plants byo-synthesize naturally and perform important functions in the human diet. In particular, they are not digested by the body and limit the absorption of energy nutrients in diet resulting in a reduction in calorial assumption. Furthermore, some prebiotic fibers have such an active role on the intestinal flora and facilitate transit at the level of the intestinal lumen.
Nutrition recommendations, also shown recently by the National Institute of Health, recommend up to 50 years of age, a daily intake of about 38 g of fiber per day for men and 25 g per day for women. Over 50 years, these assumptions expected to fall to 30 g and 21 g respectively.
The vegetable fibers are distinguished in insoluble fiber (mainly cellulose and hemicellulose) and soluble fiber in water (pectins, resistant oligosaccharides: type fructans inulin and inulin, present for example in chicory).
Inulin and Prebiotic fibers
Only a few fibers have a positive function on bacteria in the gut and contribute to our health and our well-being. These fibers are called prebiotic and are essentially the type fructans inulin and inulin. They have effects bifid genes, that is, have the property of selectively increasing the number of bifido bacteria in the human colon. This action has a positive effect on the health of the intestine, improves resistance to bacterial infections in cases of chronic intestinal also many studies have shown how this action can lead to a reduced risk of colon cancer.
Fibers used as food additives
Dietary fibers, in addition to the beneficial properties in the diet, are used as food additives thanks to the ability to bind water and form of the food gel. They play an important role in healthy eating, because often added to many foods, even for young children. The pectins, the alginates, from seaweed derivatives, guar gum, from the seeds of a legume and carob seed flour are used as natural gelling agents and thickeners.